THEOSOPHY, Vol. 23, No. 9, July, 1935
(Pages 396-398; Size: 10K)
(Number 28 of a 57-part series)

STUDIES IN KARMA

"THE WEB OF DESTINY"

THE course of every individual human life is a current narrative illustration of the hinging of one important event after another upon one "unimportant" event after another. In the United States, 35,000 are killed yearly by automobiles and a million more or less seriously injured, all with a sum of suffering, grief and loss affecting and tossing into confusion myriads of lives; all involving alterations in the course of events which will affect the lines of generations unborn in unforeseen ways; may in some cases affect world history to the destruction or salvation of millions of lives.

But every one of these accidents is contingent upon any incident, however slight, that may ever have happened in the life of either participant to bring him to that spot at that precise fraction of a second. Such an insignificant link in the chain may be merely the quickened cadence of the step of a husband leaving the house in anger after a morning quarrel; it may be a casual greeting by a friend in the street; it may be a moment's hesitation of the step at passing a striking window display; or it may be an instant's overtime on the part of a statesman or great executive lingering in his office to complete a plan affecting, for good or evil, the paths of nations. Many could, in fact, examining carefully and deeply enough their past lives, see where the whole course of life has hung upon so slight a peg as the choice of a dessert.

What lesson shall all this convey? If we are to accept the academically popular theory of determinism; i.e., the doctrine that all causes are physical, and that no man has freewill or power of choice, it must of necessity throw the really thoughtful mind into utter despair. It would show indeed that the sun shines equally upon just and unjust; it would show that in the Universe is no affixation whatever of effect to cause in any sense to justify human strivings; it would show that in the eye of nature the fall of a sparrow is equal to, if not greater than, the fall of a nation; that the devoted efforts of any man, or of all men put together, can be frustrated by a rolling pebble.

Yet the practical sense of mankind does see before it enough of the results of effort to continue striving for its objects, good and evil. Whereas, were this sort of causation to be accepted at face value, we would all retire shivering to hillside caverns, there to hide ourselves from the devastating eye of chance; or we would become irresponsible hour-to-hour fatalists, without devotion to causes, plan, or thought of the future. In short, humanity in its present state survives only by overlooking the seeming capriciousness of the stream of fate in which it swims.

But to take these concatenations at their face value also means to negate the principle of the conservation of energy which is the very basis of science, and consciously or unconsciously, of all other human effort; all the more the basis thereof now that it has taken the new form of the conservation of energy-matter.

In science and mechanics only the energy of matter is recognized; in religion, only the energy of mind -- or of "spirit" -- is recognized; and the actors in each field find their plans ever frustrated by the hard forces of the unrecognized side of energy. The Theosophist recognizes a complete cycle of energy-transformations, from the pure energy of spirit, falling by successive degrees into crystallizations which ultimately become physical energy, to the dissolving of the material energies of a universe into the spiritual motion which originally gave them birth. Thus the attached web of cause and effect which quivers about the human being with his every motion is not capricious, with effect one moment clamped to cause with steel rivets, and the next moment precariously adherent. The unbroken volume of the causative flow ever fluctuates through innumerable planes of so-called "mind" and so-called "matter," vanishing from the one at given moment only to appear simultaneously on another "plane."

Perception of this is obscured by the erroneous values placed upon various transformations of energy. Observation of contemporary life shows that in practice almost no value is placed upon the moral aspect of energy -- of action. The ruling principle behind our action is in one way or another predominantly expediency, our moral senses being so blunted that expediency has subtly become transformed in our minds into a sort of ethical sanction. Moreover, without deep knowledge of wise action, nature presents relatively little example of apparent moral causation, good deeds frequently indeed leading their author to failure, and vice versa. The fact is overlooked that should a traveler diverge in one step from the straight path, he will go further astray in proportion as he never again diverges from the straight line; the straight line with one bend leads to an infinity of error, although vision of it as far before and behind as most of us can see will show no error. It is not the sinners who have caused the world most trouble; they have for the most part been candles blown out in the winds of their own passions without setting any great conflagrations. The world owes its miseries to the inflexibly and impeccably righteous, the Torquemadas and Calvins, whose initial deviations from wisdom lie too far back in the ages to be perceptible by either themselves or others now.

One thing can not happen: an unrelated event. Never will we be prosperous when other people are impoverished, nor poor when they are thriving. Never can we shut ourselves within our boundaries and, because we do not want to know what goes on elsewhere, remain therefore unaffected by it. The least, quite as much as the greatest, being or event, affects the destiny of all.

Behold the might of the insignificant.


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

THE TRUE ATTITUDE

We should therefore be imitators of the Deity, who, while acting as he does in the manifestation of universes, is at the same time free from all consequences. To the extent that we do so we become the Deity himself, for, as we follow the dictates of the Lord who dwells in us, we resign every act upon the altar, leaving the consequence to Him.

The attitude to be assumed, then, is that of doing every act, small and great, trifling or important, because it is before us to do, and as a mere carrying out by us as instruments of the will of that Deity who is ourself. Nor should we stop to enquire whether the act is of any use to the Lord within, as some ask. For, they say, of what possible benefit to Him can be the small hourly acts which, as soon as done, are forgotten? It is not for us to inquire. The act that pleases that Lord is the act which is done as presented with no attachment to its result, while the act that is unpleasing to Him is the one which we do, desiring some result therefrom.

This practice is the highest; that which some day we must and will learn to perform. 


--William Q. Judge

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STUDIES IN KARMA
THE MYSTERY OF ACTION
(Part 29 of a 57-part series)

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